A team of save the children staff have just arrived from the North of the country. The team includes our International Director, Ken Caldwell. Ken arrived across the border having looked at the situation facing children in Niger next door. He thinks he has travelled the equivalent of the length of the UK (John o’ Groats to Lands End) and back over the last week. I had expected some stubble and a lot of dust but somehow he emerged clean shaven and in a smart suit ready for Government meetings!
I travel with our Save the children colleagues Apera, De and Ken to meet the Minister of Health, but when we arrive we find out he has been called off on an emergency. The lack of minister gives us a spare 30 minutes to share information from our different activities.
We work in three states in northern Nigeria helping to save children’s lives. We are working with communities to identify vulnerable children who are then helped with medicines they need or transport to the hospital. We also improve clinics and this includes providing clean water. Previously the clinic staff would have bought individual jerry cans of water. When they ran out of money at the clinic then they ran out of water.
We spend the afternoon planning the strategic direction of our child survival work for the next few years. Nigeria has 2% of the world’s population but 10% of all child deaths. My colleagues are keen to expand our work to save more children’s lives but are very clear that we must work in a way that delivers real change to children’s lives at a local level and not get spread too thinly and lose impact. Real local progress can then be replicated across a state.
There is a strong realisation across Nigeria that something needs to be done to tackle the standard of maternal and child health care. The crucial challenge is how we make this a top priority across the country.
There has been much down already by a number of organisations, government ministries and also the role of the First Lady as an Ambassador for maternal, newborn and child health. But we want to do more to make sure there is more funding that arrives at the local government level that improves primary health care as well as commitment from other departments to tackle the underlying causes of mortality like malnutrition and lack of water and sanitation. At the end of the day we are pleased to have very clear vision about what we want to do although slightly daunted by the scale of the journey ahead.